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Sarah Cwiek

Sarah Cwiek - Detroit Reporter/Producer

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October, 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit. Before her arrival at Michigan Radio, Sarah worked at WDET-FM as a reporter and producer.

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Senator Jeff Sessions speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC in 2011.
Gage Skidmore / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Some Detroit leaders, clergy, and activists spoke out against Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. Attorney General on Monday, denouncing him as someone who would “take us back to the Jim Crow era.”

They said Senator Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, has a particularly bad history when it comes to African-American voting rights, and other civil rights issues.

But Rev. Paul Perez, with the Detroit conference of the United Methodist Church, says that’s not the only area of concern.

Protesters chalked anti-hate messages outside Royal Oak Middle School, after reported incidents of race-based bullying there.
Alexis Gentile / via Facebook

Some school leaders and parents are wrestling with how to respond to hateful incidents in the wake of Donald Trump’s election.

There have been a number of such incidents reported in schools across Michigan since election day.

One happened at Royal Oak Middle School the day after the election, when a  group of students chanted “build the wall” in the cafeteria — an apparent reference to Trump’s pledge to build a wall across the Mexican border.

Alicia Ramon is the mother of the seventh-grade girl who took a video of that incident, which has since gone viral.

A demolition in Detroit.
City of Detroit / via Facebook

A federal investigation into Detroit’s demolition program under Mayor Mike Duggan seems to be picking up speed, and possibly widening in scope.

Federal agents visited the Detroit land bank Wednesday.

The land bank has used almost $130 million in federal money, originally allocated for foreclosure prevention, on demolitions as part of Duggan’s aggressive blight elimination campaign.

flickr user Joe Gratz / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A man sentenced to automatic life in prison as a juvenile could get that sentence reinstated, even though decades of his court files are missing.

That’s what a Wayne County Circuit Court judge has ruled.

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Charles Lewis was convicted of murder and sentenced to automatic life without parole in 1977, when he was 17.

That makes him a so-called “juvenile lifer.” And the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled all juvenile lifers are entitled to a shot at parole or re-sentencing, except in the “rarest” cases.

raquel4citycouncil.org / Facebook

There’s no sign that Detroit will change any of its immigrant-friendly policies as a result of Donald Trump’s election, according to one City Council member who has helped spearhead some of them.

Detroit is a self-designated “sanctuary city.” Those cities offer limited protections to undocumented immigrants.

Trump has pledged to cancel federal funding to all sanctuary cities during his first 100 days in office.

But Detroit City Council member Raquel Castañeda Lopez said there are no plans to change anything—yet.

Civil rights groups and clergy gathered at Detroit's Central United Methodist Church on Monday.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Civil rights groups and faith leaders say they stand ready to oppose some of Donald Trump’s expected policies.

They displayed a united front and laid out plans for action in Detroit on Monday.

The plans range from rounding up attorneys and other volunteers to defend families facing deportation, to clergy pledging “sanctuary” for them.

Sergio Martinez, an undocumented immigrant living in Detroit, says his community is “scared to death” right now.

Protesters also chalked anti-hate messages outside Royal Oak Middle School.
Alexis Gentile / via Facebook

Protesters have taken to streets across the country to express their displeasure with President-elect Donald Trump.

That includes some who gathered to speak out and march in Metro Detroit last night.

In Royal Oak, the group gathered outside Oakland Community College was fairly small, but they did draw lots of supportive honks.

Some shared their anger over Trump’s election—and their determination to resist his policies.

Others spoke about fear of harassment and physical attacks against Muslims, immigrants and other targets of Trump’s rhetoric.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

There’s a big, coordinated push in Detroit for more and better early childhood services.

But first, its boosters need to come up with a plan.

The biggest boosters—and likely funders—of this “civic partnership” dubbed Hope Starts Here are the Kellogg and Kresge Foundations.

They’re rounding up groups and people with a role in Detroit’s early childhood services, from day care providers to pediatricians.

Kellogg Foundation CEO La June Montgomery Tabron says the idea is to come up with an “action plan” that lets everyone can claim ownership.

Refugee children play in Warren, MI in 2015.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

What will happen to U.S. policy toward Syrian refugees when Donald Trump takes over as president?

That’s what Michigan’s refugee community, and the agencies that help to resettle them, are waiting to find out.

Trump repeatedly depicted Syrian refugees as terrorist threats on the campaign trail, and threatened to “stop Syrian refugees” from entering the country more than once.

A map outlining the proposed transit master plan for Metro Detroit.
Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan

A millage proposal to fund transit improvements has failed in Metro Detroit.

It would have allowed the Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority to implement an ambitious transit master plan, upgrading the historically dismal and fragmented transit systems in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties.

The millage would have raised about $3 billion over 20 years to build bus rapid transit systems, bolster and better connect existing bus lines, provide transit connections to Detroit Metro Airport, and other services.

gop.gov / gop.gov

After 24 years, Macomb County has a new public works commissioner: retiring Republican Congresswoman Candice Miller.

The race for that typically low-profile, decidedly un-glamorous job got nasty--and expensive—this year.

Democrat Anthony Marrocco has been Macomb’s public works commissioner for 24 years.

The job description is all about managing sewers and storm drains. But the commissioner also controls important construction permits, and some very large county contracts.

From left to right: EAA chancellor Veronica Confirme, DPSCD interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather, DPSCD transition manager Steven Rhodes.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

What remains of the Education Achievement Authority will merge with Detroit’s public schools district, then dissolve next July.

That’s when the EAA, Governor Snyder’s fumbled attempt at a state-run “turnaround district” for the lowest-performing schools, will finally cease to exist.

Making that transition as smooth as possible will be the mission between now and July, according to Detroit Public Schools Community District transition manager Steven Rhodes.

DPSCD Superintendent Alycia Meriweather
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The new Detroit public school district has a new academic plan.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District got a fiscal overhaul after nearly going bankrupt last year.

Now, Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather says it will take a fresh approach to teaching and learning, too.

Longtime Macomb Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco, left; retiring U.S. Rep. Candice Miller (R-Harrison Township), right.
via Macomb County, US Rep. Candice Miller

If you live in southeast Michigan, you’ve probably seen ads like this on your TV lately:

And this one:

user eyspahn / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The U.S. Justice Department will keep a close eye on things in Michigan this election day.

But according to Detroit’s U.S. Attorney, that’s largely business as usual.

Barbara McQuade has appointed Dawn Ison, a “very experienced” prosecutor from her office’s public corruption unit, to be the District Election Officer.

Ison will “be on call” all day to take any complaints of potential federal election violations, from potential fraud to complaints of voter intimidation. She also has a direct line to the Justice Department in Washington if the need arises.

via michigan.org

The “Pure Michigan” tourism campaign is a net money-loser for the state.

At least that’s what researchers at the free-market Mackinac Center for Public Policy conclude in a new report.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Detroit's immigrant population is on the rise once again.

After taking a dip between 2000 and 2010, the number of immigrants in the city has grown more than 12% since then, according to U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by the non-profit group Global Detroit.

That accounts for more than 4,000 new Detroiters, says Global Detroit Executive Director Steve Tobocman.

“That is a major turnaround, and hopefully it’s a bellwether for the stabilization of neighborhoods in the city of Detroit,” Tobocman said.

Brandy Gutierrez was evicted from her house in Lincoln Park. She says no one told her it had gone into tax foreclosure until it was too late.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

In Wayne County, tens of thousands of properties go into tax foreclosure every year.

Most are in Detroit. But it happens in the suburbs too.

Some suburban communities have started buying those tax-foreclosed homes, and turning them over to developers.

But many of the affected homeowners didn’t know that until it was too late to save their homes.

Some tried to fight anyway. But this month, that fight came to a bitter end.

Clifford Freitas
via LinkedIn

An FBI probe into Macomb County municipal corruption has netted another local elected official, and forced a major garbage company founder to resign.

Macomb Township trustee Clifford Freitas is the second local government official charged with bribery this month.

Frietas allegedly demanded more than $40,000 in bribes to help a waste hauler, Rizzo Environmental Services, get a favorable contract.

That happened despite the fact that Freitas worked for Rizzo, and was supposed to remove himself from any government business involving the company.

Ajamu Baraka at Wayne State University.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

It’s time to reject the “politics of fear,” and embrace third-party alternatives in American politics.

That was the message Ajamu Baraka had for an audience at Detroit’s Wayne State University on Tuesday.

Baraka, a longtime political activist who founded the U.S. Human Rights Network, is the Green Party candidate for vice president. He and running mate Jill Stein will appear on the ballot in 45 states, including Michigan.

Baraka says he and Stein represent an opportunity to “break the two-party monopoly” on government.

Pence spoke to a packed house at the Macomb County Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

President Obama and Hillary Clinton have “weakened America’s status in the world” with their policies.

But a President Donald Trump would boldly reverse course, Indiana Governor and Vice Presidential hopeful Mike Pence told a crowd of Macomb County Republican loyalists Monday night.

Pence fired up a sold-out crowd at the Macomb County GOP’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner.

Pence said Clinton “literally personifies the failed status quo in Washington D.C.” He accused her of being the “architect” of policies that have led to a “weakened America and a stifled economy.”

Under Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit has used federal anti-blight funds for an aggressive demolition campaign.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s rapid-fire demolition campaign under Mayor Mike Duggan was rife with questionable bidding practices and lacked major internal controls, according to state and federal reviews of that program.

That revelation emerged Monday, as the city announced the U.S. Treasury had released another $42 million in federal funds for the program.

But that funding had been suspended for two months, as the treasury department reviewed a Michigan State Housing Development Authority investigation.

Vice presidential candidates Republican Mike Pence (L) and Democrat Tim Kaine (R).
wikimedia commons

Both major party candidates for the next U.S. vice president plan campaign stops in Michigan this week.

Donald Trump’s running mate is up first. Indiana Governor Mike Pence is scheduled to headline a dinner hosted by the Macomb County Republican Party tonight.

Traditionally blue-collar Macomb remains one of Trump’s few bright spots in Michigan, where most recent polls show Hillary Clinton regaining a healthy lead, though none has her topping 50% of the total vote.

Clinton’s running mate, Virginia Senator Time Kaine, will pay a visit to Detroit Tuesday.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The Great Lakes Water Authority put $1.3 billion worth of bonds on the market last week.

It’s the first bond offering for the new regional authority, which emerged from Detroit’s bankruptcy process. It now provides wholesale water and services to millions of people across southeast Michigan.

About $1.1 billion of that will be used to refinance existing debt at a lower interest rate, says Nicolette Bateson, the GLWA’s Chief Financial Officer. She says that should produce almost $310 million in savings over the life of the bonds.

Narconon

Carfentanil-laced heroin is showing up in Michigan.

That was confirmed last week, when public health officials in Wayne County definitively linked at least 19 deaths since July to the powerful synthetic opioid.

They were on the lookout for carfentanil after it appeared in nearby states this summer — particularly Ohio, where a late-summer surge in fatal overdoses was tied to carfentanil. There was also a suspected case in Kent County last month.

Dean Reynolds
via Facebook

An elected official from suburban Detroit faces a federal bribery charge, in what is apparently the first prosecution to emerge from a “long-running” investigation into alleged corruption in Macomb County.

Dean Reynolds is a Clinton Township Trustee. He’s accused of taking between $50,000-70,000 in bribes from a businessman who had a contract with the township.

user jdurham / MorgueFile.com

According to data from the Michigan Secretary of State, 7,481,074 people statewide are registered to vote in the November election.

That’s a very slight uptick from the 2012 election cycle.

Nearly everyone of voting age in Michigan is registered to vote, due in large part to the state’s motor voter law. But not everyone votes. Only 63% cast ballots in the 2012 election.

Some local clerks kept their doors open late on Tuesday, which was the deadline to register.

Charles Lewis at a hearing in Wayne County Circuit Court.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A Detroit man sentenced to life without parole for a 1977 murder is entitled to a new sentence.

But efforts just to start that process have stalled again because of missing court files.

Charles Lewis was only 17 when he was convicted in the robbery-murder of an off-duty Detroit police officer.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in two recent cases that sentencing juveniles to life without parole is unconstitutional, except in the “rarest” cases.

Lewis is one of more than 300 Michigan “juvenile lifers” now awaiting re-sentencing, which should mean at least a shot at parole.

sign saying a high quality school
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The new Detroit Public Schools Community district fell just shy of its budgeted enrollment goal for the year.

The district counted 45,265-45,365 students at the state count day last week. That’s about .5% shy of what the district had budgeted for. 

But coming off a tumultuous year that saw the district almost go bankrupt, district leaders see the numbers as a victory of sorts.

Steven Rhodes
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A new community center will soon open up inside a Detroit school.

The Ford Resource and Engagement Center is at Fisher Upper Magnet Academy, on the city’s east side.

The Ford Fund, the Ford Motor Company’s philanthropic arm, is sponsoring the $5 million project. It’s part of a $20 million commitment to community causes in Southeast Michigan.

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